Cornelius Gerhardus van Rooyen ('Gert' van Rooyen) was a South African paedophile and serial killer who, together with his partner Joey Haarhof, abducted and murdered at least six young girls between 1988 and 1989.
Their victims were never found as the pair committed suicide when faced with arrest after the escape of their last kidnap victim.
Van Rooyen's first crimes were theft, being sent to a reform school in 1954 for stealing a car and rifle, followed by imprisonment in 1960 for stealing motor spares and clothing.
He married and subsequently fathered six children. He ran a building construction business together with his brothers.
In 1979, Gert van Rooyen abducted two girls aged 10 and 13, taking them to the Hartbeespoort Dam near Pretoria, where he punched them in the face to force them to strip naked and perform sexual acts. Van Rooyen released the girls in Pretoria the following day. He was subsequently arrested and sentenced to four years imprisonment for abduction, sexual assault and common assault of the girls, serving three years before being released.
In September 1983, Van Rooyen and his wife Aletta divorced. In 1988, he started dating the attractive looking divorcee, Francina Johanna Hermina Haarhoff ("Joey" Haarhoff). The couple holidayed together at Warmbaths and Umdloti, on the KwaZulu Natal coast.
On 1 August 1988, 14 year old Tracy-Lee Scott-Crossley of Randburg near Johannesburg disappeared. She was seen by witnesses climbing into a VW Beetle outside the Cresta shopping mall. Her brother, who had declined an offer to go with her, was severely guilt-ridden and traumatized by her disappearance. In later life he was found guilty of murder but the conviction was overturned.
On 22 December 1988, twelve year old Fiona Harvey of Pietermaritzburg disappeared. A white Ford 'Bantam' pickup used in her abduction with an advertisement for Van Rooyen's building-contracting business on it would later link him to this crime.
On 7 June 1989, twelve year old Joan Horn of Pretoria disappeared.
In July 1989, sixteen year old Janet Delport of Durban disappeared after being abducted in a shopping mall by a blonde woman. She was later found wandering around distressed, but unharmed.
Some weeks later, nine year old Rosa Piel of Alberton disappeared.
Van Rooyen was thought to use Haarhoff to lure young lure girls for him. Children's homes reported that she telephoned requesting to bring girls home for the holidays and weekends. At the end of 1989, a 14 year old girl from an orphanage in the Orange Free State spent the Christmas holidays with the couple. The couple applied to foster children, but the application was turned down.
On 22 September 22 1989, eleven year old Odette Boucher of Kempton Park disappeared. The same day, twelve year old Anne-Mari Wapenaar, also from Kempton Park, disappeared too.
On 29 September 1989, Kobie Wapenaar, Anne-Mari's mother, received a letter from her daughter claiming that she and Odette had run away to Durban with some boys. It is suspected the letter was written under duress.
On 3 November 1989, Yolanda Wessels, the thirteen year old niece of Van Rooyen's partner, Joey Haarhof disappears.
On 11 January 1990, sixteen year old Joan Booysen of Pretoria was abducted by Haarhoff in Church Square, Pretoria. She was taken to Van Rooyen's home in Malherbe Street, Capital Park where she was handcuffed, drugged and sexually assaulted before being locked in a cupboard. It is likely that Van Rooyen thought the small girl was younger than she was, as she managed to escape and alert the police. Police placed the home under surveillance, and four days later, identified Van Rooyen when he drove past his house in a white Ford pickup that matched the description of a vehicle used in one of the abductions. They gave chase, but Van Rooyen shot Haarhoff and himself dead with a high powered revolver when police closed on him.
All the above disappearances, with the exception of Rosa Piel and Tracy-Lee Scott-Crossley, were linked by witness statements or forensic evidence to Van Rooyen and Haarhof following their deaths. For example, Odette's Boucher's home address, phone number and class captain's badge as well as Anne-Mari's address and home keys were found in his home. However none of the Van Rooyen's victims was ever found, despite extensive Police searches of his business premises and house (dubbed the "The House of Horrors" by the press).
In 1996, Absa Bank donated Van Rooyen's former house to the police to allow the girls' disappearance to be investigated further. On 13 May 1996, police systematically demolished the house in a search for new forensic evidence that might provide clues to the girls' fate. The roof was removed and vacuumed for traces of human hair and nails, then the walls demolished and the kitchen and main bedroom scanned with sonar equipment for cavities. The soil in the garden was sifted and some bones found, but forensic pathologists identified these as non-human.
In February 2001, Flippie van Rooyen, Gert van Rooyen's son, was found guilty of perjury in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court. He was charged with three counts of perjury after giving police conflicting statements under oath relating to the six missing schoolgirls.
On 12 March 2007, renewed interest in the case occurred after a set of adolescent bones was found on the beach near Umdloti, Kwazulu-Natal about 500 m away from a holiday resort believed that Van Rooyen and Haarhoff are known to have visited. Subsequent DNA testing did not identify any of the Van Rooyen victims however.
Significant public attention has been brought to bear on the case recently by the investigative television series, Carte Blanche which controversially dedicated a recent episode to the mystery.
In November of 2007, bones were discovered in a property adjacent to Van Rooyen's house in Pretoria whilst ground was being dug up to install a swimming pool. Local authorities were alerted, and investigations are underway to determine if the bones are human, and of the missing girls.